The College Application Process

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I think what most students strive for, and most families hope for, is to become college ready. Most of the time, students and parents worry about what it takes to get into college, and how to pay for college. Basically how to get students scholarships consumes the latter half of my school year. I would love for families to know that getting scholarship ready starts freshman year. I also get questions about how to apply, and most students assume that the online application on the college website is the only piece to the puzzle. Community service hours, SAT/ACT scores, and GPA along with the level of coursework taken, are becoming the core pieces to be an attractive applicant for colleges. Students should start early, and talk to their high school counselors about appropriate volunteer opportunities to start building their hours. I have created a list of things students and parents should know and do when it comes to applying for colleges.

-          Starting junior year (or sooner), start searching for majors and which colleges offer those majors. Look at what the GPA and test score requirements are for the colleges you may be interested in to ensure you are a strong candidate.

-          Sign up for your ACT and SAT. I always encourage students to take both because the tests are different, and students may do better on one versus the other. Take these tests during junior year so if you need or want to re-test for higher scores, you will have time to do so before college applications start.

-          If you are unsure of which college or university to attend, visit them if possible, or see if they have virtual tours. Visiting a college or university can give you a very good idea if you can picture yourself there.

-          Do not limit yourself, if you have goals to attend a college that seems out of your reach based on requirements, apply anyways. Apply to colleges that are considered “safe” as well, meaning you have a good probability of being accepted based on the requirements.

-          If you can afford the college application fee, then apply to at least 5 colleges. I learned awhile ago that five is a realistic number. Apply for 2 safe schools, meaning you would attend them, and meet or surpass their admission requirements. The 3rd school should be a school you want to attend, and your may meet some requirements, but its close. Then the final 2 schools are your reach schools. Schools you may not meet all requirements, but they offer what you want and you would really like to attend them.

-          Some students can qualify for application fee waivers, the same way they can qualify for SAT/ACT fee waivers, based on family income and some other factors. Work with your high school counselor to see if you qualify! Save money where you can.

-          Apply online through the college/university. Online applications are just the first step of the application process.

-          Submit ACT/SAT test scores. You have to log into your testing account and request they send an “Official Copy” of your test scores. You can also request scores be sent when you apply for the test initially. Some students prefer to wait though so they can see their scores first.

-          Request your Official high school transcript be sent through your high school registrar or guidance office. Students will send 2, a preliminary transcript for college acceptance and part of the application process, and a final transcript after graduation to show that the diploma was earned.

-          Complete any other requested documentation the college or university may have. The most common one is applying for residency. Residency is documentation showing you are a resident of Florida, and should pay in state tuition instead of out of state tuition. Due to most students being minors right out of high school, the parent has to complete the residency form as well, since they are the ones claiming residency.

-          Most colleges do not require recommendation letters. Most do not want to read them, and won’t even if you send them. Do not get recommendations unless the school you are applying to is specifically asking for them and they are a piece of your application requirements. When students do need recommendations, it is helpful to have a resume written up of all achievements, higher levels of coursework taken, awards or recognitions, and anything that you would want the person writing your recommendation to know. Give this to the person you are requesting a recommendation from so they have a good amount of information to write a great recommendation for you.

-          Finally, complete your FASFA! The Federal Application for Student Financial Aid is a great way to receive federal funds to help pay for college. Colleges and universities also use the information provided on this application to see if you qualify for any college based funds.


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Jackie Plucker has been a school counselor in Lee County for 7 years. She has Bachelor’s in Social Work and two Masters degrees in School Counseling and Educational Leadership. Jackie loves being a high school counselor and working with families to navigate not only high school life, but life after high school.